Taking A Look At New England Auto Racing History

Wednesday January 25, 2011

 Volume 4, Number 4                                                                                     New Column Every Wednesday


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By Dave Dykes                                                                              CLICK ON PHOTO FOR FULL SIZE

It’s Wednesday, and here we are with another edition of “Racing Through Time.” This week we again try to hit all the bases, covering a number of New England auto racing personalities from the past. I will be at the New England Auto Racers Hall of Fame Induction ceremony the Sunday, Hope to see you there! As-always, email reaches me at foreveryounginct@gmail.com                  

NOTE: We have now put a comment box at the end of the web site. Please feel free to leave your comments.

Another Wednesday, More Old Stuff…..!  

From humble beginnings at Joe Tinty’s greatly-missed Plainville Stadium in Connecticut, this guy became one of the best racers to ever strap-into the cockpit of a modified. The much-celebrated Reggie Ruggiero is seen here at Plainville in the 1970s behind the controls of the 00jr, a clone of the late Walt Kuryn's 00 coach. This Sunday Jan 29, “The Reg” will take his place among the other racing greats of New England when he’s inducted into the New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame. (Phil Hoyt Photo).  

Seen here during a Plainville Stadium victory lane celebration is a couple of racers that were a huge part of “Tinty’s Place” for many, many years. On the right it’s Don Moon, one of the track’s big stars, and a guy that traveled extensively with success during the 1960s. That’s Don Spazano on the left, long one of Plainville’s most-winning drivers and one of our sports true “Nice Guys.” Looks like the boys were playing to a packed-house on this Saturday night in the early-70s! (Phil Hoyt Photo, Courtesy of Tom Ormsby).               

Pictured here in the #1 owned by Spud Cray is our old pal, Bob Mickulak. Our friend & Webmaster Tom Ormsby who’d began his career in 1968 at Plainville, purchased this car from Cray after getting out of the Air Force in 1972 and campaigned it as the #VO. Tom and the old coupe gained some unfortunate notoriety one evening in 72’ when the throttle-stuck while going down the back chute and he vaulted the wall, ending-up in a heap in the pits. He and his crew had the nearly-demolished car back at the track within 2-weeks, changing the color & renumbering-it 24. (Phil Hoyt Photo).         

And here we have the late Bobby Santos. Yet another driver whose roots are traced back to the former Norwood Arena in Massachusetts where he got his start in the Hobby Division of the early-fifties, he went-on to become a dominant force in the modified wars. Driving for renowned car-owners such as Art Barry (as seen here at Stafford), Billy Simons, and Joe Brady among others, he was a threat to-win each time he donned the Nomex. Inducted into the New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame in 2001, Bobby passed-away in December of 2006. (John Grady Photo). 

This is a rare-one from our old friend John Grady….Captured here on the rich clay of New York’s famed Fonda Speedway with the Bob Judkins #2x during a break from his USAC Indy Car endeavors is the late, great Jim Hurtubise. A ten-time starter of the Indy 500, “Herk” was a truly-versatile racer, successfully competing in a myriad of different divisions during his long, storied career. Regarded as a true underdog when he was racing at the nation’s highest-rung of competition, he was a crowd-favorite, especially when behind the controls of his front-engine Mallard Roadsters. It was a time when the rest of the Indy-set had long-abandoned the design in-favor of the more technically advanced rear-engine cars. Sadly, Jim passed-away from a heart-attack in 1989 at age-56. (John Grady Photo).              

The late Pete Corey (aka “The Crescent Hillbilly”), was simply one of the best racers of his generation. When he lost his left leg in a horrible 1959 crash at Fonda, New York his resultant comeback elevated him from hero to legend. The fact that his car had to be equipped with a hand brake after he lost his leg seemed almost immaterial. Corey actually began his career as a motorcycle racer switching to stockcars in the late 1940s. He won sporadically in the early '50s and then landed a ride with famed Schenectady, New York car owner Bob Mott in 1955. It proved to be a career-move that made him the hottest driver in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. Seen here at Fonda with a Ford Falcon-bodied mount, he retired from the sport in 1973. (John Grady Photo).

Captured here behind the controls of an absolutely-classic coach following a feature victory is our old friend, “Fast Finch Fenton” (known in mere-mortal terms as Lew Boyd). As the proprietor of Coastal 181 www.coastal181.com Lew brings to us the best in racing-related reading, video, and artwork. This guy has been-around the sport for a long-time and as-seen here saw success during his driving days in just about every division in New England, dirt & asphalt. (John Grady Photo).          

Seen here at Massachusetts’ much-missed Riverside Park Speedway is another former racer I’m proud to count as a friend, Ronnie Wyckoff. Starting his racing career in Florida, he joined the Sportsman ranks at Plainville Stadium after moving North in 1959. Success in the modifieds quickly-followed with numerous wins at an assortment of New England speedplants. Included in those victories are multi-time triumphs in UNITED’s “Riverside 500” events, once a benchmark of the Northeastern racing season. In this scribes opinion, historically-speaking this guy remains one of our region’s most-underrated competitors. (Steve Kennedy Photo).     

One of the real chargers when Harvey Tattersall’s once influential United Stock Car Racing Club ruled the New England modified roost rather than NASCAR, Tommy Sutcliffe enjoyed a long-reign at the front of the pack. Twice a champion at Connecticut’s late West Haven Speedway, he was a top competitor all over New England for decades winning a boatload of features. This one captures Tommy at the former Riverside Park in Massachusetts during the 1960s, then the flagship facility of UNITED. (John Grady Photo).

Here’s a wonderful shot of New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame member Billy Harman celebrating one of his early victories at the “New London-Waterford” Speedbowl as the driver of the potent “L&M” coupe. Sharing the spotlight with Billy is fabled early Speedbowl flagman Loren Card. Note the old “sand safety strip” along the outer- parameter of the track. Originally built-in as a safety feature (the theory being that it would “slow-down” errant competitors before impact), it remained until being paved-over in the mid-60s. (Shany Photo Courtesy of Tom Ormsby).    

Captured here pitside at Riverside Park, Jerry Humiston was one of the premier-players within Harvey Tattersall’s United Racing Club. Three-times a track champion (1954, 59, and 61), he raced at The Park’ during what many consider the tracks most-competitive era. One of the most-popular and accomplished drivers of his time, Humiston’s prominent place in the history of the much-missed oval is rightly-deserved, and he’ll be inducted into the New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame this Sunday, Jan 29. (Grady Photo).            

What can be penned about this guy that’s not already been written? A New England modified racing Icon, Billy “Gramps” Greco means a lot of things to many people, but here at “RTT” we’re most-proud to say that he’s our friend. Billy is captured here at Connecticut’s famed Stafford Springs Motor Speedway getting ready climb-aboard the potent #14 coupe owned by the brother team of Ray and the late Rich Garuti. Greco and the Garuti brothers are all members of the prestigious New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame. (Photo courtesy of JoJo Farone).

That's it for this week. Email me at:

 

COMMENTS from 1-25-12 column
 

(6 days ago) Cal in Clinton said:

The L&M shot is kool 41 willys with a straight 6 layed over

(6 days ago) Dave Dykes said:

Hi Larry, On this particular shot, Tommy's correct. John had actually identified it as Fonda on the back of the photo for me. Cool photo, isn't it?

(6 days ago) Tom Ormsby said:

The photo of Hurtubise I believe was at Fonda. The car has the screen on the windshield and the only time I ever saw the screen was when the 2x ran on dirt. I don't think John Grady was taking any photos at Stafford back then.

(6 days ago) Larry LaFayette said:

Hi Dave,
Is the photo of Herk ,at Stafford.I Believe,
He ran a few shows there in Bobby Judkins 2x.
Larry

(6 days ago) Lary Pincince said:

I look forward to your site every Wednesday! I met Rusty Sage at Thompson in Sept where we competed in a racing school outing, he told me about your site. I grew up next to Stafford Speedway in the 60's and 70's, and have traveled throught out the east coast attending many events. I still live in Stafford and have a second home in Thompson on Quaddick Lake, the night I looked at the place with the realtor was a thursday during the summer, I asked what the noise was? Keep up the excellent work!!

 
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